I want to create a queer community

No, I’m not kidding.

Sitting on the porch one summer afternoon, in a two-legged straight-backed chair leaning against the wall. Iced tea or Aperol spritz in hand, Dolly on the record player. We have just come home from work or visiting older neighbors or handing out hygiene kits and we look at the garden, where we are growing tomatoes and kale on land returned to and rented from its local indigenous communities. Some of us will turn our harvest into a vegan veggie lasagna, while others will do the dishes so no one has to double up on chores. After dinner we sit around a fire and wax optimistic about the rise of left-wing governments in Latin America or the latest romantic comedy, and dance with the kids and pets to Beyoncé until we’re all asleep and retreating to our own quiet, comfortable quarters.

…I don’t know, I’m just spitting here, but it sounds pretty idyllic to me.

Over the past few years, I’ve introduced friends, my girlfriend, and just about everyone I meet to the idea of ​​creating a queer community. To me, it’s an easy sell and makes perfect sense. Integrated relationships buffered by loneliness? Don’t have to do all the chores (or buy an entire house) yourself? A spirit of chosen family and anti-heteronormativity? I don’t know what more a millennial queer could want.

Often my audience accepts it, affecting enthusiasm as if soothing a child playing pretend. “Let’s look in the desert!” a friend proposes, then later sends me a Zillow listing for land outside of Palm Springs. (I guess we’re building.) An ex-girlfriend tells me she and her fiancé are joking about buying a multi-family house with her cousin and her boyfriend and raising the kids together. A good friend from college and I discuss the animals, activities, and philosophy of the “precinct” we will one day find ourselves in.

What these people don’t understand is that I don’t play – and whatever superficial interest they show, it barely hides their endgame. Because for every fake “Fuck yeah” and “We’ll host art shows in our yard!” is another friend, another queer couple, lost to the decaying Xanadu of the American dream: single home ownership. As they have been socialized to see, they are not only buying a house, but also accepting the promise of security, stability and comfort that apparently can only be guaranteed with a mortgage. I watch them, melancholy, as they succumb. This could be usI whisper, painting pastorals of homemade food you didn’t have to do unless you wanted to do it, and someone always there to take you to the airport, but you and your girlfriend would rather invest a million dollars in an 800 square foot single family home.

~

I had my first taste of community life in college. I had recently discovered homosexuality, and with it a community of other gay students and ex-students who lived in double and triple floors where they cooked together, learned from each other and formed all kinds of relationships – living, laughing, loving, as it was. They probably would have identified this as “intentional living”, more than “community living”, although the two are essentially a group of people sharing space and resources. But semantics aside, they showed me a setup that seemed more loving, more normal, than the supposed ideal of a suburban nuclear family. (Admittedly, I also watched a lot of Great love at the time.)

The foundation of queer ethics was particularly appealing in these spaces. Residents were queer, yes, in sexuality, gender, or both, but beyond that their politics resisted assimilation and oppression and were rooted in inclusive feminism. Many were activists and organizers of other left-wing movements; the houses were an experience of caring, honest communication and non-punitive measures to address harm. They were environments that allowed a multiplicity of relationships and intimacies to bloom. If you were poly, if you didn’t want kids, if you wanted nothing more than to be a nice person, if you were just a freak, you might feel at home.

It made sense not only theoretically, but also practically. As someone who values ​​privacy and interdependence – and as an Aquarius who loves humanity but not always people – I was seduced by the concept of having our own space with friends nearby, each of us bringing skills and goods and relying on each other. I am unable to maintain the house, for example, but I would gladly do the collective laundry. I don’t want to raise my own human children, but I think I would thrive as a weird aunt.

Some might call it immature; an adult failure. In mainstream American culture, there is an expectation to transition from living with parents or roommates to living alone or with a spouse. But we are sort of a minority there: in the world, the most common way of life is the extended family. This therefore shows that we have been fed classist and racist notions of community life as unhealthy, unproductive and anti-american. After World War I, the U.S. government conceived and propagated the ambitious narrative of individual homeownership as a direct response to communism. Later, the Public Works and Federal Housing Administrations socially designed segregated public housing and underwrote the white suburb (rich) from the United States We want to own our own homes because, surprise, surprise, the idea was offered to us.

If sharing a home with extended family or non-relatives goes against the identity of this country, it’s not just about giving up individual ownership. Community life demands and facilitates an inherently anti-capitalist way of life. Six people on a lot don’t need to buy six lawn mowers. Cohabitation with roommates from different backgrounds and life experiences gives way to social and political alignments that threaten the dominant paradigm. And if we didn’t have to do everything ourselves, if we weren’t solely responsible for keeping our lights on and feeding our children, what freedom could we experience, both collectively and as individuals? ?

The pandemic, for all its hell, has blown illuminating holes through our picket fence individualism. Many of us who had been relatively comfortable caring for our own were suddenly confronted with the reality that we are vulnerable without each other. We started to get to know our neighbors, exchanging toilet paper and sourdough. Number of multi-generational homes have increased, and roommates — whether platonic or romantic — kept busy when we got sick. The Covid has (re) introduced us to municipal care.

It also demonstrated and continues to demonstrate how our neoliberal systems have let us down. From fractured healthcare supply chains and infrastructure to shaky housing markets and wages continually eclipsed by the cost of living, instability and scarcity have blanketed the collective. Rent and inflation increases hit more people away from homewhile more than 3 out of 5 people in the United States are in debt. After so many mothers quit their jobs to care for their children at home in 2020, there are still 1 million fewer women in the labor force two years later.

Why not abandon the road once laid out for us, now all veiled pavement and gaping potholes, and take a detour along the road less traveled by living together? Why not create our own ever-expanding social safety net? It has been made clear that traditional power structures will not save us. We are all we have. And when we’re not on our separate, self-governing islands – when we have stronger immediate support networks of people who may not share our family name – we’re better able to help others in our communities. and ourselves. And it works: A recently founded municipality, the Tenacious Unicorn Ranchwas explicitly developed as a haven for queer and trans people trying to survive the previous presidential administration, and continues to grow today.

I’m not too proud to admit that I Zillow as much as the next person (although I’m still bothered by how soothing it can be). There are some things I value more, however, than four beds and two bathrooms for me. In my twenties, I lived with three other queer people who taught me how to change my oil and reminded me of the simple joy of popping an unplanned joint after work. In my current quadruplex, we rely on each other for emergency pet care, for “Are you home?” I think I left my oven on”, and for an unexpected and genuine conversation while passing in the yard. (Not to mention the loaves of bread that one of my neighbors regularly bakes for the rest of us.) It’s experiences like these that ignite the spark of connection, the comfort of knowing someone is near. and the family warmth of being cared for and caring about.

The American Dream was never imagined with everyone in mind. At its best, individual home ownership evokes feelings of stability, security, and connection. At worst, it embodies exclusionary consumerism and white-straight tribalism. The queer commune offers all of the former without the latter, instead offering collectivism, relatedness, and the potential for social transformation. And probably a good homemade dessert.

You come?

Molly Savard is a queer writer, a wanderer of ideas and averse to consistency. She was raised by three postmen in Manville, Rhode Island and lives in Los Angeles with all the strays that come to her doorstep. You can read more of his work at mollysavard.com.

Joan D. Boling